Performing at a sold-out arena here and abroad is nothing new for 29-year-old pop superstar Sarah Geronimo. And yet, something was amiss when she took the Las Vegas stage last weekend.
Clearly exhausted and sleepless from a grueling tour schedule, Sarah broke down in a teary speech, her voice shaking as she recounted watching a video of the late Michael Jackson, where his adoring fans would burst into tears after catching a glimpse of the King of Pop. Sarah confessed that she was not prepared for the demands that would come alongside sharing her talent to the world, including the pressure to keep up a perfect image and be a role model to her fans.“Mahirap po. I’m sorry, pagod po ako,” the teary-eyed singer admitted, leaving fans off guard as she erupted into an unexpectedly raw moment. The emotional stress was on a high as she also momentarily walked out in the middle of singing her first hit, Forever’s Not Enough, to compose herself.
While we won’t claim to be experts on mental health, anyone can tell that Sarah’s been burned out—and rightfully so. As the country’s most phenomenal act of her generation, Sarah has been working non-stop since she won Star for a Night in 2003, embarking on a 15-year career in full throttle: from multiple platinum-selling albums and sold-out concerts, to blockbuster films, TV shows, and multimillion-peso endorsements. All while putting on her trademark winsome smile and wholesome image.
Sarah has received an outpour of support and love from members of the industry as well as her loyal fanbase, yet there are those who don’t seem to understand the immense weight on the singer’s shoulders, saying that Sarah “should be grateful for the blessings she’s received in her career.” And it is true: With talent, fame and riches at her fingertips, from an outsider’s perspective, Sarah has what can only be described as the “perfect life.” Yet as Jim Carrey once said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer.”
Sarah, however, is not alone in the desolate trappings of the entertainment industry. Whether it’s glitzy Hollywood, the picture-perfect K-pop industry, or the local showbiz scene, celebrities here and there lead an exhausting life. Aside from a hectic work schedule that provides them little to no rest, they are usually under immense pressure to look perfect, constantly subjecting themselves to the public’s intense scrutiny and unrealistic beauty standards. They need to steadily try to keep up with the demands of their career wherein there’s always a stiff competition with emerging talents. Each aspect of their life (their romantic relationships, included) tends to be controlled by a publicist or an agency in order to craft a pristine public image.
Like everyone else, stars are allowed to be tired, take a step back, and care for their mental health.
Many stars, especially those who started out young, have cracked under the rigors of their career as they dealt with all sorts of issues—depression, substance abuse, anxiety, body dysmorphia—for better or for worse. Britney Spears had a very public meltdown after she notoriously shaved her head in 2008, telling her hairstylist she was “tired of everybody touching [her].” Even Miley Cyrus admitted that she had gone through “intense pressure” when she was cast as Disney’s Hannah Montana at 13, and once struggled to break out of that image, leading to a series of past scandals like her infamous 2013 MTV VMAs performance.
Others choose to leave the limelight altogether and live more grounded lives, like former child star Mara Wilson (from Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire), and at one point, Dylan and Cole Sprouse, who put off their acting careers to attend college. Then, there were those who tragically took their own life out of hopelessness. Recently, news of 28-year-old DJ Avicii’s death made headlines, while K-Pop fans all over the world mourned the death of SHINee’s Jonghyun last December.
Celebrities aren’t mere images or cardboard cutouts, no matter how “perfect” we perceive them to be. At the end of the day, they’re human, with their own set of quirks, faults, and imperfections. Like everyone else, stars are allowed to be tired, take a step back, and care for their mental health.
We’re hoping that Sarah gets the break and support she needs to recover. This also goes for anyone who feels pressured and overworked, be it in school or at work: Know when to rest, seek help, and rely on a support system. At the end of the day, self-love is more important than whatever kind of success.